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How can technology be better used across Essex to promote independent living?

A bunch of people from very different backgrounds got together just before the Christmas holidays to workshop our shared knowledge and experience around what may be enabling or hindering technology adoption among older people in the county. We asked ourselves:

1. what works for citizens?
2. what works for professionals?
3. where have we seen tech take-up work well?
4. what have we seen or heard of that we want to explore further?
5. what do we want to share?
6. what do we want to explore & scale?

We have called ourselves The Independent Living Collaborative and we have agreed to put our heads together over the next few months to begin to tease out some richer insight into digital and tech adoption and ageing, to help people maintain and expand their independence for longer. It’s a system-wide collaborative piece of work that relates to two ambitions of the Essex Vision, namely ageing well and connecting people.

It’s a given that assistive technology can help people live independently for longer in their own homes and should have a beneficial impact both on the quality of life for people and their carers and delay, or reduce the need for social care and health services.

However, deployment of this technology at scale beyond the use of relatively simple, low cost products such as monitored alarms, has not yet taken place. The Independent Living Collaborative is exploring how we can remove barriers to this in Essex and test and build new strategies to help local people harness technology, not for technology’s sake, but in a way that invests in the people of Essex’s digital skills today, for better outcomes tomorrow.

This is about taking the best of technology and combining with a human and social approach and will allow us to work in a targeted way to deliver meaningful insights into our relationship with technology. The Independent Living Collaborative has been convened by Essex County Council and includes local and district councils, NHS, Fire and voluntary sector members from across the county.

Our first meet up got off to a great start – we got some fantastic feedback and the timing of this seems to have really chimed with people working across sectors in Essex. We managed in a fairly short time to set the scene and our aims between now and March and have agreed our methodology which will lead us towards co-producing a theory of change that will provide us with a single narrative for this challenge.

We want to take a blended approach to acquiring insight for the Independent Living Collaborative. It will be an exercise in observing, listening and engaging. Conventional research methods will help us explore existing data around why technology isn’t being used by older people for wellbeing in the numbers that you might expect. There are social, economic, generational and familial reasons for it. We want to understand these things, but look beyond them to the broader environmental causes. It may be as subtle as friendship groups and interests but we intend on looking under the bonnet of this area to draw out as much insight as possible.

We are out and about in January with our insight partners Healthwatch Essex, speaking to retired people, professionals and the family and carers surrounding them. If you know of a group or individual you would like to contribute to our insight gathering, whether it be:
1. linking us in to individuals or groups you would like us to include in the insight, OR
2. flagging up areas or places that you feel are worthy of exploration,
… get in touch with me

Irene Carson
ReThink Partners



Irene Carson, ReThink Partners